Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 2: Consumer Behavior

March 2, 2022
Peter McCarthy
Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 2: Consumer Behavior

There is no crystal ball when it comes to predicting the book market. That said, we’ve been able to pinpoint certain consumer trends by aggregating data across tens of millions of book titles, geographies, and publishers who publish into different segments. By collecting and analyzing this data, we can better determine how consumers will react to different global shifts in the market.

In part one of this series, we touched on several global trends affecting publishers within the supply chain and book manufacturing. For part two, we’ll focus on consumer behavior.

Key Trends in Consumer Behavior

  

eCommerce

Despite a dampening effect one year into the pandemic, ecommerce is way up and is continuing in that direction. A significant reason is consumers shifting to online shopping like never before. What started as a necessity or convenience soon became the preferred way for consumers to purchase specific products - including books.

Value-Based Shopping

Clarus Commerce

A key trend that caught the eye of many companies in 2021 was value-based shopping. Between Shop Indie campaigns, Black Lives Matter campaigns, and everything in between, it became evident that consumers were more likely to do business with companies, brands, and authors that aligned with their values. 

And we see that trend continuing, as shown by a 2022 Customer Loyalty Study across brands (non-book specific). In the study U.S. consumers were asked what keeps them loyal to their favorite brands, with 22% stating a “strong sense of community” and 16% stating a “positive social impact”. In comparison, 17% said “better prices” as a reason to stay loyal to a brand, which showcases just how strong consumer loyalty is tied to the stated and delivered values of a company.

We can also see values-based shopping playing a role in the media growth of bookshop.org from July –December 2021.

similarweb

 

Their growth has been consistent and steady, with no sign of falling off like other indie fads over the past two years. We can attribute part of their staying power to their ability to be a part of the community, as a large value prop of bookshop is supporting local bookstores.

Format Trends

Pew Research Center

According to a Pew Research Center study, the number of U.S. adults reading has barely changed in the last ten years, moving from 78% to 75% - still a large addressable market! Of that market:

  • 65% read a print book (down from 72%)
  • 30% read an ebook (up from 17%)
  • 23% listened to an audiobook (up from 11%)

From this data, it's clear that print remains the dominant format, however both ebooks and audiobooks essentially doubled in terms of their penetration into the market.

The study also goes on to dispel the myth that an ebook reader exclusively reads ebooks and no other formats, with only 9% of readers report that as being the case. In reality, a third of U.S. adults were shown to have more omnivorous reading habits, reporting to have read both print and digital formats. 

  

The OmniChannel Shopper

We’ve also seen a new consumer emerge - the omnichannel shopper. They are comfortable buying online and in-store, ebook and print formats, indie bookstores or chain stores - they're multi-format, multi-channel, and multi-retailer within those channels.

According to a McKinsey & Company study done on U.S. shoppers over the summer of 2021, most consumers are shopping in an omnichannel way, doing a combination of online and in-store, which is good news for the book industry. Breaking this down further by those who purchased books, magazines and newspapers, 61% reported purchasing goods online and offline, with only 13% who exclusively research and purchase in-store and 26% who exclusively research and purchase online.

McKinsey & Company

 

Are Ebooks Down?

According to NPD, during the first half of last year ebooks were down compared to 2020 by about 5% in unit sales. This may differ slightly from publisher to publisher and within genres, however it does beg the question of whether ebook readership is beginning to stagnate. 

NPD

 

Streaming Wave

NPD also reported ebook unit sales were up 6% over 2019; how is that possible, with so many doubting ebook’s shelf life as a viable option for readers? The answer is streaming.

  • OverDrive, which powers library, ebook and audiobook sales and downloads for consumers, had half a billion digital book downloads in 2021. 
  • Kindle unlimited announced in October 2021 they paid 40 million in royalties to publishers and authors of the top 100 most read titles in the U.S., and the top 25 most read titles in the UK. That's a significant amount in royalties when you consider it's based on pages viewed. 
  • Wattpad was acquired for 750 million dollars by the company behind WEBTOON. These websites and applications average 400 million monthly visits, with an average time spent on the sites or apps over 20 minutes. 

You won’t find this information reported by NPD, as the streaming platforms empower this data. These transactions are happening in a complicated space for most to truly analyze, but it's a consumer trend we think is significant. 

 

How Publishers are Responding

Tactics to Drive Discovery & Interest

Given the growth of ecommerce, there are a lot of publishers looking to optimize their titles for search within online platforms. However, it's become increasingly difficult to get attention in these crowded spaces organically. To beat out the noise and the clutter of online competition, publishers are utilizing the following tactics:

  • Search Engine Optimization – especially on Google and Amazon
  • Paid Advertising – retail, social, search, etc.
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Merchandising & Promotions– both online and offline
  • Brand Awareness 
  • Word-of-Mouth

Tactics to Drive Conversion to Sale

Good Book Descriptions

Your books need to be attractive to grab the attention of a distracted consumer base. The best way to do this is to make sure your books are depicted accurately, with a great description.

Your book descriptions go out into a fractured landscape to be used and shared in many ways. The clearer your descriptions are, the less likely your message can be misconstrued. When consumers arrive, they understand what the book is and how it aligns with their interests. 

An attractive book generates action - word of mouth, reviews, brand trust, and more sales.

 

Data-Informed Sales & Marketing

Publishers are using reader data to work smarter and not harder, by optimizing their books for the consumer path to purchase. The more aggregated data on competitors, search engine result pages, market trends, and reading habits, the better you can understand consumer behavior and whether your sales strategy aligns with it. 

Large data sets allow publishers to:

  • Understand their audience better - speak their language to optimize descriptions.
  • Reach readers directly - go where customers are and make sure their products are seen.
  • Be authentic and add value - an excellent way of building consumer loyalty.

 

Throughout this two-part blog series, we hope you’ve found the quality data and trends publishers are using allow for more flexibility in the market. One way to ensure you capitalize on these trends is to use a set of consumer marketing tools and services, like the ones Ingram has rolled out in 2022. Click here to learn how these tools help publishers collect and understand reader data.

Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 2: Consumer Behavior
Peter McCarthy

Peter McCarthy

Pete McCarthy is a Director of Consumer Insights at Ingram Content Group where he is responsible for marketing analytics, marketing and ecommerce Software-as-a-Service as well as developing consumer insights capabilities to support Ingram and its partners. He has over twenty-five years of publishing experience, ranging from technical and executive positions with The New York Review of Books, the Penguin Group, and Random House to consultancies and start-ups. He brings a strategic and technical approach to marketing and selling content and books at scale and speaks, writes about, and advises frequently on consumer marketing in the publishing space. McCarthy joined Ingram Content Group when they acquired OptiQly, a marketing technology company he co-founded, in 2017.

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